Long before the current “@POTUS” took to Twitter with the frequent use of the meme “#FakeNews,” debate in journalism circles centered around a different phrase gaining traction in a digital landscape, “Citizen Journalist.”
Folks wondered what might be the point of continuing to pay trained writers or photographers to go out and see things? That is, if anyone with a Facebook account and the staggering abilities of an iPhone could reach the world just as quickly or even effectively. While the business implications of that question continue to challenge every newspaper and broadcast station in the nation and trained talent mix, for the moment, smoothly together with citizen contributors, there are times when it pays to have someone permanently “on the beat.”
The far backseat of a six-person single-engine Cessna 210 as it hopped and banked through layers of turbulence en route to the Carrizo Plain National Monument is one of those times and places where the citizen journalist might be just as happy that there was only room for two paid pairs of eyes and ears to represent the public.
A cameraman/producer for KEYT/KCOY/KKFX, the television market triopoly, and myself, a reporter of long standing for the SLO City News but similarly sharing my range with the affiliated papers the Coast News and Bay News were invited on the aerial trek by Los Padres Forrest Watch and Conservation Lands Foundation teaming up with Ecoflight.
County locals may well know the former two over decades of activism, but the later is quite unique. Ecoflight is an organization “advocating for the protection of remaining wild lands and wildlife habitat using small aircraft.”
Pilot, and Executive director for Ecoflight of the organization, Bruce Gordon has taken up similar teams of media, local community leaders, and political representatives all over the nation from Pennsylvania to Alaska.
Wherever he can go, he said where preservation, conservation or restoration of the land is being considered. He started with what he calls the “conservation missions” in the African bush.
Gordon and Carrizo resident Pat Veesart, aboard as a guide to spot landmarks from the air, are clearly passionate about maintaining the status quo protection for the valley that, Vesesart calls, “the last remnant of a unique habitat for species that used to cover the entire coastal range. It’s one of the last valleys that didn’t turn into agriculture or get developed.”
On the ground though, Jane Pargiter, Ecoflight’s vice president, points out the real reason they invited us along for what would otherwise be an expensive joyride, “the nonprofit has an ‘eco-view’ but what you see is objective. Landscapes have no ‘alternative facts.’ You can see everything from an truly objective stance.”
Indeed the valley, Soda Lake, the mountains surrounding them, the erosion along the mind-bogglingly huge San Andreas Fault, Painted Rock speak for themselves through as many photographs as can be shared.
For information on Ecoflight go to their website at: ecoflight.org
And for a gallery of images from the flyover type in: https://goo.gl/photos/mGzJgbhDXimVSPgY8
- Story and Photos by Camas Frank